2011 Chinese GP – Friday Practice 1 Results


The first practice session for the Chinese GP saw Sebastian Vettel continuing his strong form in 2011, setting the fastest time in his Red Bull around a smog-covered Shanghai circuit. Mark Webber was half a second off his team mate’s time, but that gap pales in comparison to the 2 second margin Sebastian had over the McLarens and the rest. Although practice sessions on Friday are generally used to perform a variety of simulations that may produce very slow laptimes, it was still impressive to see the RB7 run faultlessly throughout the morning session, as well as its speed on the back straight.Sebastian was optimistic of his team making ‘big improvements’ in China, and if that turns out to be true, Vettel’s dominance may be impossible to stop this weekend.

McLaren look likely to be sandbagging or evaluating new parts which have dropped the single lap pace of the car, for it is hard to think that Red Bull could have a 2 second advantage over them. Although Jenson did have a problem with his KERS overheating one hour into the session, the Mercedes system is one of the best out there, and its reliability can be taken for granted. McLaren are quite bullish on their Chinese GP prospects, and one assumes that apart from their raw pace, RBR’s KERS issues and the massive DRS enabled back straight are the reasons for this confidence.

Ferrari once again spent the first session carrying out aerodynamic tests and hence their lap times are not surprising. The Italian team has a calibration problem in it’s wind tunnel and the pressure is starting to build on the men at Maranello to rectify it. Alonso mostly did constant velocity runs with some flow visibility paint on the cars, highlighting the desperate situation the team finds itself in. Alonso has been toning down expectations, admitting only a podium is possible, and Massa finds no solace in his car’s race pace, since he is likely to start at the tail of the top ten.

Heidfeld displayed Renault’s genuine pace, with a 5th fastest lap although he crashed his R31 after only 5 laps and could not continue. Schumacher, Barrichello and Kobayashi ended up towards the bottom, while Kovalainen did well to take his Lotus around in 1:41s. Luiz Razia and Pastor Maldonado had an eventful the session, with the former damaging his front wing and tyre and the Williams rookie spinning out. Liuzzi had a mechanical problem with this HRT and stopped at the end of the session but the team were quite happy to close the gap to Virgin.

Here are the results :

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